Here’s some food for thought: Is your passion just your hobby, or could it also be your livelihood?
That question led Bryn Mooth, former editor at HOW magazine, to join a growing trend of midlife professionals who slough their jobs and embark on new careers. Mooth got her start with HOW as an assistant editor after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in English and journalism. Twenty years later, Mooth, then editor-in-chief of the design magazine, found that her work left her satisfied, but not satiated. Her craving for creativity inspired her to find an outlet that would combine her lifelong loves: food and writing. In July 2010, she created a blog, writes4food.com—an exploration of Midwestern cooking and eating that is clever, refreshing, and as organic as the food it features.
CK: You write in Writes4Food that “the seeds were planted” long ago for this career change. Why now? What about this particular moment inspired you to make the switch?
BM: I’m not sure why it only occurred to me recently to connect the two things that really light my fire: writing and food. I’ve loved both of those things since I was a little kid practicing my spelling words at the kitchen table while my mom made dinner.
I wasn’t unhappy with my job at HOW. I worked with great people, for an audience of great people, and I liked the subject matter. But somehow, that wasn’t completely scratching the creative itch. I started my blog as a creative outlet and shortly thereafter I realized that there’s a burgeoning market for food-related writing. And with a growing cultural interest right now in eating healthy food, sourcing your food locally and cooking it simply, it seemed like a good time for me to contribute to the conversation.
It was difficult to balance my interest in Writes4Food.com with full-time responsibilities as editor of HOW. I felt like I needed to either commit all-out to freelance writing – or to let go of it entirely.
CK: What advice do you have for those contemplating a career change?
BM: I had the good fortune to work with a lot of experts at HOW who help creative people run successful businesses. I learned so much from them! So I’ll pass along some of their advice that I found helpful:
— If you want to do something different, start by taking the tiniest steps in that direction. You’ll feel like you’re actively steering the change, not just along for the ride. My first tiny step was setting up my blog domain and writing that first post.
— Give yourself a deadline. I decided I wanted to attend this year’s HOW conference for freelancers (next month) as an attendee, not as a staff person.
— Start saving. I set aside about 6 months of savings to cover my living expenses while I build a client base. Doing that also helped me feel like I was taking active steps in this new direction.
CK: What scares you about this decision?
BM: Um … everything. I was afraid of disappointing the people I worked with. I’m afraid that I won’t be busy enough, or that I’ll be too busy. I’m a compulsive list-maker and planner, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in this new career path. I don’t do uncertainty well.
CK: Who are your food “heroes”?
BM: My grandmothers, Dorothy Mengering (who published a cookbook in the mid-1990s called “Home Cooking with Dave’s Mom”), and Ruth Millholland. They always cooked with love and a lot of butter. Cooking was instinctive for them; they cooked by eye and feel as much as by recipes. Some of this, a little of that … That’s how I tend to cook, myself.
Also, Alice Waters, for her very early advocacy of cooking great ingredients, ideally local ones, with very little fuss. And I admire what she’s doing now with her Edible Schoolyard project to bring vegetable gardening into schools.
And, frankly, anyone who manages to put a healthy dinner on the table for their family every night. It ain’t easy, but it’s so important.